IMDb > Whale Rider (2002)
Whale Rider
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Whale Rider (2002) More at IMDbPro »

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Whale Rider -- A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.


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7.6/10   34,176 votes »
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Down 1% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Niki Caro (written by)
Witi Ihimaera (book)
View company contact information for Whale Rider on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
29 August 2003 (USA) See more »
One young girl dared to confront the past, change the present and determine the future See more »
A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 32 wins & 32 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
An Exquisite Masterpiece! See more (346 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Keisha Castle-Hughes ... Paikea

Rawiri Paratene ... Koro
Vicky Haughton ... Nanny Flowers

Cliff Curtis ... Porourangi

Grant Roa ... Uncle Rawiri
Mana Taumaunu ... Hemi
Rachel House ... Shilo
Taungaroa Emile ... Willie
Tammy Davis ... Dog
Mabel Wharekawa ... Maka (as Mabel Wharekawa-Burt)
Rawinia Clarke ... Miro
Tahei Simpson ... Miss Parata
Roi Taimana ... Hemi's Dad (as Roimata Taimana)
Elizabeth Skeen ... Rehua
Tyronne White ... Jake (as Tyrone White)
Taupua Whakataka-Brightwell ... Ropata
Tenia McClutchie-Mita ... Wiremu
Peter Patuwai ... Bubba
Rutene Spooner ... Parekura
Riccardo Davis ... Maui
Apiata Whangaparita-Apanui ... Henare

John Sumner ... Obstetrician
Sam Woods ... Young Rawiri
Pura Tangira ... Ace
Jane O'Kane ... Anne
Aumuri Parata-Haua ... Baby Paikea

Directed by
Niki Caro 
Writing credits
Niki Caro (written by)

Witi Ihimaera (book "The Whale Rider")

Produced by
John Barnett .... producer
Reinhard Brundig .... co-producer
Bill Gavin .... executive producer
Linda Goldstein Knowlton .... executive producer
Reinhild Gräber .... supervising producer: ApolloMedia
Frank Hübner .... producer
Witi Ihimaera .... associate producer
Rudolf Kurz .... supervising producer: ApolloMedia
Tim Sanders .... producer
Original Music by
Lisa Gerrard 
Cinematography by
Leon Narbey (director of photography)
Film Editing by
David Coulson 
Casting by
Diana Rowan 
Production Design by
Grant Major 
Art Direction by
Grace Mok 
Costume Design by
Kirsty Cameron 
Makeup Department
Barbie Cope .... hair assistant
Barbie Cope .... makeup assistant
Denise Kum .... hair supervisor
Denise Kum .... makeup supervisor
Jane O'Kane .... hair assistant
Jane O'Kane .... makeup assistant
Kenzie Sampson .... makeup trainee (as Kenzie Samson)
Orlando Bassi .... wig maker (uncredited)
Production Management
Janet McIver .... production manager
Peter Moerenhout .... unit manager (as Pete Moerenhout)
Anne Urban .... post-production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Anna Gundesen .... assistant director: second unit
Neil James .... second assistant director
Michelle Sowman .... third assistant director
Liz Tan .... first assistant director
Art Department
John Brockie .... carpenter
Pete Burney .... carpenter
Brian Campbell .... set finisher
Graham Collins .... carpenter
Kerry Dunn .... scenic artist
Jackie Gilmore .... set dresser
Brett Graham .... sculptor: Porourangi's sculpture
Kate Highfield .... art department manager
Maka Makatoa .... storyboard artist
Bernard Makoare .... designer: Reiputa
John Miles .... construction manager
Russell Munro .... carpenter (as Russ Munro)
Lia Neilson .... art department runner
Josh Patterson .... greensman
Aaron Reedy .... property assistant
Michaela Sanders .... art department runner
Richard Sheath .... leading hand
Megan Vertelle .... set dresser/buyer
Nick Walter .... carpenter
Nick Weir .... props buyer
Neil Williamson .... carpenter
Roger Murray .... propmaker (uncredited)
Anthony Sumich .... props stand-by (uncredited)
Sound Department
Chris Burt .... adr supervisor
Stefan Colli .... sound designer: atmos (as Stephan Colli)
Stefan Colli .... sound supervisor (as Stephan Colli)
Corrin Ellingford .... boom operator
Hubert Henle .... sound consultant: Dolby
Stefan Korte .... sound re-recording mixer
David Madigan .... sound recordist
Sven Neumann .... dialogue editor
Mirko Reinhard .... special effects sound designer
Luigi Rensinghoff .... dialogue editor
Wilmont Schulze .... foley artist
Josef Steinbüchel .... special effects sound designer
Markus Wimmer .... special effects sound designer
André Zimmerman .... sound designer: atmos (as André Zimmermann)
David Madigan .... production sound mixer (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Phil Addenbrook .... physical effects: Film Effects (as Phil Addenbrooke)
Dean Clarke .... physical effects: Film Effects
Oliver Gee .... special effects assistant
Visual Effects by
Dan Blanchard .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Christel Brunn .... visual effects producer: TVT
Justin Buckingham .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Manfred Büttner .... visual effects producer: TVT
Barry Down .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Steve Dyson .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Erich Eder .... inferno artist: TVT
Erich Eder .... technical director: TVT
Terry Green .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Jason Johnston .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
John Lott .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Steve Lowe .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
George Maihöfer .... visual effects superviser: TVT (as George Maihoefer)
Charlie McClellan .... digital effects consultant: TVT (as Charles McClellan)
Greg N. Nichols .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects (as Greg Nichols)
Kevin Riley .... visual effects
Caterina Schiffers .... digital compositing: TVT
Florian Schuck .... digital retouching: TVT
Dean Taylor .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Gaysorn Thavat .... visual effects (as Gatsorn Thavat)
Markus Wollschläger .... digital retouching: TVT
Steve Young .... whale construction: Glasshammer Visual Effects
Dee McClelland .... dailies colorist (uncredited)
Mark Harris .... stunt coordinator
Camera and Electrical Department
Armie Armstrong .... underwater camera operator
Rachel Beard .... clapper loader
Joshua Creek .... additional grip (as Josh Creeks)
Kevin Donovan .... key grip
Rhys Duncan .... steadicam operator
Kirsty Griffin .... still photographer
Brenden Holster .... camera assistant: second unit (as Brendan Holster)
Steven Joyce .... generator operator (as Steve Joyce)
Steven Joyce .... generator operator
Brian Laird .... best boy
Henare Mato .... lighting assistant
Grant McKinnon .... gaffer
Leon Narbey .... camera operator
Kevin Riley .... camera operator: second unit
Jim Rowe .... grip assistant
Paul Samuels .... focus puller
Sigmund Spath .... underwater photographer
Gaysorn Thavat .... focus puller: second unit
Johnny Yarrel .... video assistant
James Young .... lighting assistant
Casting Department
Christina Asher .... additional casting
Robyn Cammell .... casting assistant (as Robin Cammell)
Riwia Fox .... casting assistant
Riwia Fox .... extras casting
Karen Sydney .... additional casting
Stu Turner .... additional casting (as Stu Turner)
Stu Turner .... additional casting (as Stuart Turner)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Paul Booth .... wardrobe runner
Deirdre McKessar .... assistant costume designer
Jenny Rushton .... standby wardrobe (as Jenni Rushton)
Editorial Department
Julie Alp .... assistant editor
Hans Joachim Bruß .... color grader (as Hans-Joachim Bruß)
Renate Dahmen .... negative cutter
Guido Krajewski .... editing facility manager
Bruce McArthur .... laboratory manager: Atlas
Robert Pinnow .... post-production technical supervisor: TVT
Clare Burlinson .... video colorist (uncredited)
Charles Knight .... editorial advisor (uncredited)
Dee McClelland .... rushes colorist (uncredited)
Location Management
Podge .... location manager
Music Department
Simon Bowley .... music mixer
Ricky Edwards .... technical music support (as Rickey Edwards)
Chris Gough .... music supervisor: Mana Music
Jacek Tuschewski .... technical music support (as Jacek Tushewski)
Michael Edwards .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Savage .... music performer: Deceptikonz member (uncredited)
Other crew
Phil Addenbrook .... marine engineer: Film Effects (as Phil Addenbrooke)
Kath Allen .... chaperone: Gisborne
Shane Armitage .... safety officer
Thomas Becker .... legal affairs: ApolloMedia
Tania Bettany .... financial controller: South Pacific Pictures
Josef Brandmaier .... structured finance
Anni Browning .... completion bond: Film Finances
Sally Campbell .... head of production: South Pacific Pictures
Alice Carstensen .... production runner
Dean Clarke .... marine engineer: Film Effects
Sian Clement .... unit publicist
Helen Copplestone .... assistant accountant
Birthe Danielsen .... assistant: Mr. Felscher
David Dant .... shortfall insurance: Filmvision
Matt Emery .... legal and business affairs manager: South Pacific Pictures
Spencer Faulkner .... unit assistant: second unit
Thorsten Felscher .... financial controller: ApolloMedia
Laura Fong .... production coordinator
Oliver Gee .... marine engineer: Film Effects
Moira Grant .... production coordinator
Carol Haapu .... consultant: Iwi
Rewa Harker .... assistant: John Barnett
Brian Harris .... operator: remote head
Karen Hawkyard .... animal wrangler
Willie Heatley .... boat coordinator (as Willy Heatley)
Maude Isaac .... chaperone: Gisborne
Lyssa Judd .... production runner
Camelija Karlic .... production coordinator: Pandora
Jens Kriegel .... projection assistant
Matt Lawford .... shortfall insurance: Filmvision
Di Magee .... production accountant
Samia Mainz .... assistant: Mr. Hubner
Pat Merrifield .... swimming coach
Guy Moana .... maori design/carvings
James Mok .... title designer: TVT
Damian Molloy .... water safety
Markus Münz .... projection assistant
Waio Parata-Haua .... stand-in: Paikea
Johnny Poi .... instructor: Taiaha
Ngamaru Raerino .... kaumatua: South Pacific Pictures
Karin Reinink .... assistant: John Barnett
Robert Sarkies .... script editor
Joan Scheckel .... script consultant
Nadine Schäfer .... assistant: Mr. Westerkamp and Mr. Schafer
Krissy Stainton .... production runner
Dominic Stones .... unit assistant
Gavin Strawhan .... script consultant
Hone Taumaunu .... consultant: Iwi
Rainer Teusner .... accountant: Pandora
Kathleen Thomas .... continuity (as Kath Thomas)
Aaron Tomlinson .... casual assistant
Martin Trendall .... insurance: Mahony, Trendall, Jack
Mike Turner .... manager: second unit
Karla Wallace .... production secretary
Jörg Westerkamp .... legal affairs: ApolloMedia (as Jorg Westerkamp)
Stephanie Wilkin .... chaperone
Stephanie Wilkin .... tutor
Hone Taumaunu .... production advisor (uncredited)
Dave Ahu .... special thanks
Mere Boynton .... special thanks
Nancy Greystone .... special thanks
Liddy Holloway .... special thanks
Derek Lardelli .... special thanks (as Derek)
Rose Lardelli .... special thanks
Andrew Lister .... special thanks
Ian Mune .... special thanks
Murray Newey .... special thanks
Kath Te Kani .... special thanks
Judith Trye .... special thanks
Tim Worrall .... special thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsSpecial EffectsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference
101 min
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:Atp | Australia:PG | Brazil:Livre | Canada:PG (Alberta/Manitoba/Nova Scotia/Ontario) | Canada:G (British Columbia/Quebec) | Finland:K-7 | Germany:6 | Hong Kong:IIA | Iceland:L | Ireland:PG | Mexico:A | Netherlands:AL | New Zealand:PG | Norway:11 | Peru:PT | Portugal:M/6 | Singapore:PG | Singapore:PG13 (re-rating) | South Korea:All | Sweden:7 | Switzerland:10 (canton of Geneva) | Switzerland:10 (canton of Vaud) | Switzerland:12 (canton of the Grisons) | UK:PG | USA:PG-13

Did You Know?

Many of Pai's swimming scenes were in fact done by Keisha Castle-Hughes's stand-in Waio Parata-Haua, because Keisha could not swim well.See more »
Continuity: The father and grandfather are arguing after the slide show, and the father goes to pull down the white sheet that was hung over some drapes to act as a screen. He pulls it down, along with the rod and orange drapes that the sheet was hanging from. Moments later, the drapes are back up in place and hanging perfectly straight, and there wasn't enough time for him to re-hang the drapes.See more »
[first lines]
Paikea:In the old days, the land felt a great emptiness. It was waiting. Waiting to be filled up. Waiting for someone to love it. Waiting for a leader.
[child birth scene]
Paikea:And he came on the back of a whale. A man to lead a new people. Our ancestor, Paikea. But now we were waiting for the firstborn of the new generation, for the descendant of the whale rider. For the boy who would be chief.
Paikea:There was no gladness when I was born. My twin brother died, and took our mother with him.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Mating Rituals 101 (2004)See more »
Voice / Percussion LoopSee more »


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68 out of 85 people found the following review useful.
An Exquisite Masterpiece!, 30 July 2003

I don't use the word "masterpiece" often when reviewing a film but for "Whale Rider," it's an inadequate accolade. This is one of the most moving, beautiful and powerful films I have seen in years.

Screenplay author and director Niki Caro faithfully translated Witi Ihimaera's novel of the same name, a poignant and sometimes sad but ultimately uplifting story of New Zealand Maoris seeking, with the leadership of a difficult, stubborn and often harsh elder to sustain their peoples' values and customs.

Australia and New Zealand are both encountering, in politics and in culture (and often the two are inextricably linked), their shared heritage of white oppression of native peoples. Much of this history is unknown to Americans and Europeans who view Australia through a bird's eye picture of the Sydney Opera House and New Zealand with even fewer associational icons.

Recently, "Rabbitproof Fence" painfully depicted the policy of Australia to force lighter skin aborigines into "schools" where they would be nurtured to become "semi-whites" and then married to those of similar skin tone. The object was to bleach the blackness out of Australia and the horrors of this incarnation of cultural and anthropological genocide are on full display in that film.

"Whale Rider" takes a different and, in the end, perhaps a more powerful approach. There are virtually no whites in the film and only children's t-shirts and some music blasting from a boombox suggests the encroaching force of the controlling majority.

The cast is unknown to Americans and their names can be found on the IMDb homepage for the film. The lead actress, however, must be named. In the role of "Pai," a young girl whose mother dies at her birth along with her twin brother, is the extraordinary Keisha Castle-Hughes. She imbues every scene with a commanding and inviting vitality. Hers is an Academy Award (and any other major award) performance.

Pai's father left New Zealand for Europe, there to create and sell Maori crafts. She lives with her grandmother and grandfather, the latter some sort of unelected chieftain of the oceanside community. Bitter that no male heir will succeed him and alternately cruel and loving to his reluctantly acknowledged granddaughter, Koro starts a school to supplement the young boys' secular education with inculcation of the ways of the Maori. Pai wishes to join as an equal and is firmly, indeed harshly rebuffed at every turn.

If the Maori language has the phrase "You go, girl!," then it be directed towards the indefatigable but not arrogant Pai. It would have been easy to make her the kind of thoughtless rebel that nature often programs teenagers to be. The depth of her character resides in her simultaneous quest for equality and her understanding of her grandfather's unyielding attachment to patriarchal values. Pai's close relationship with her grandmother, a woman living a life universally recognizable to Americans, provides warmth and support and do some of her other relationships.

The story unfolds seamlessly with Maori music and rituals bridging the spoken dialogue (mostly in English, some in Maori with subtitles).

Partly a straight tale, partly a gripping mystical fable, "Whale Rider" never becomes saccharine.

The music and Maori songs complement but do not compete with the dialogue, a welcome change from many movies today. The land and the ocean are rawly gorgeous.

As in Australia, relations today between New Zealand's indigenous people and the descendants of their vanquishers are sometimes tense. There are open wounds from continuing political collisions over land and culture. The Maoris are not a monolith and internal dissension is active. Serious attempts to sustain Maori values and culture in the face of assimilative pressures meet with varied degrees of success (in Koro's Maori school the kids wear t-shirts with rock themes and one has a shirt advertising an upstate New York resort area if I saw correctly). New Zealand's most internationally renowned Maori is the opera diva Kiri te Kanawa who is now dedicated to Maori cultural restoration projects. "Whale Rider" can only give a boost to such efforts which, as this film shows, makes not only New Zealand but the world richer.

This is a film I will acquire on DVD as soon as it is available.


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